经济学人:财政部分裂 要钱还是要命?
日期:2015-07-01 16:39



Breaking up the Treasury
Your money or your life
The knives are out for Whitehall's mightiest department
TONY BLAIR once kidnapped a civil servant. It was 2005 and the then prime minister, who was heading to EU budget talks in Luxembourg, needed an economic expert. So he purloined a Treasury official. The reluctant bureaucrat was later dumped in Paris without passport or money, recalls Jonathan Powell, a former adviser, in his book “The New Machiavelli”. Oddly, the man “just wanted our assurance that we wouldn't tell the Treasury that he had been travelling with us.” If the news got out, his career could have ended.

The tale illustrates the potency of Britain's finance ministry, which has long wielded more power than its international counterparts—or, it sometimes seems, the prime minister's office. In the post-war years the Treasury was a hub for Keynesian demand management. Under Margaret Thatcher it became the engine room of a monetarist revolution. It commandeered social policy during Mr Blair's administration. Now it oversees austerity, the lodestar of the coalition government.
Yet a report published on September 4th, “The Destruction of HM Treasury”, says Whitehall's leviathan should count its days. The two authors know their stuff. Stian Westlake directs policy at the National Endowment for Science, Technology and the Arts, a charity taken seriously by Treasury types. Giles Wilkes was an adviser to Vince Cable, the business secretary.
Mr Westlake and Mr Wilkes argue that the rhythm of twice-yearly financial statements, in the budget and the autumn statement, makes the Treasury short-term in outlook and prone to headline-grabbing wheezes. Moreover, all three main parties have embraced the interventionist “sector strategies” championed by Michael Heseltine on the right and Lord Adonis on the left. Because the Treasury detests that sort of economic meddling, politicians have it in their sights. The department's functions might, the authors suggest, be distributed to an expanded prime minister's office, a stronger business department and a dedicated finance ministry.
A plan to dismantle the Treasury was pitched to—and well received by—senior Labour figures at a private seminar last winter. Shadow cabinet ministers talk eagerly about the idea, though in the ruling Conservative and Liberal Democrat parties it is more a niche interest.
Even if any of this comes to pass, however, the Treasury's mandarins will remember that governments have tried to trim their wings before. Harold Wilson's Labour government set up a new Department of Economic Affairs to rival the Treasury. It too was supposed to concentrate on long-term planning, and it too was created partly for political reasons, to appease the ambitions of George Brown, the perpetually tired and emotional deputy leader of the party. The Treasury fought it, and won. Brown moved to the Foreign Office and the upstart department was unceremoniously closed down in 1969. The lesson? Never underestimate the power, and self-interest, of the Treasury.
但即便这个计划的任何一条被通过,财政部的官员们将会明白政府曾试图折断他们的羽翼。哈罗德·威尔逊手下的工党政府成立了一个新的经济事务部门来对抗财政部。这个部门应该也是致力于长期的计划,而且它也是因部分政治原因而建立起来的,用来满足疲惫不堪且情绪化的党派副领导人乔治·布朗的野心。财政部与之对抗并最终胜利。布朗调到外交部,而自命不凡的经济事务部于1969年关闭。这一课教给我们什么呢?绝对不要小觑财政部的利欲熏心。译者:邵夏沁 校对:崔梦雪



1.head to 引至,通到

例句:I let the horse drop his head to crop the spring grass.

2.break up 分手;打碎;分裂

例句:Rubber bullets were used to break up the demonstration.

3.prone to 易于;倾向于

例句:As they shorten, cells become more prone to disease and death.

4.set up 建立;设立;创立

例句:The city police set up roadblocks to check passing vehicles.